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An Expensive Taste Of France
Member Name: cazkins
Advantages: Classic appeal & image, can swap Tesco vouchers for this restaurant, nice ambiance
Disadvantages: Expensive, menu range not great for price, see review
I thought I'd review Café Rouge as I've heard a fair bit about it before but have only recently been there myself. Although it's usually spoken of quite highly, I must admit that I wasn't too impressed.
Café Rouge has a distinct image, from the name and the menu, to the appearance of the stores in general.. I've heard some not-so-positive things regarding wages and ethics of employee treatment in past years, but I believe this has since been rectified (such as with the payment of less than minimum wage being made illegal). Other than that, what I see in terms of advertising and what I've heard from friends has been quite positive.
Café Rouge is a French-esque UK restaurant chain owned by Tragus Ltd, with 105 outlets across the country (you can search for your nearest on their website). They seem to be quite well-known and popular, partially because of it's strong image and because it stands out from other eateries as having a classic French appeal.
I went to Café Rouge by mistake really, as we had intended on going elsewhere for a cheaper late-afternoon meal before seeing a show. With nowhere else to go, and a few slightly fussy eaters, we decided on this restaurant as it was close at hand and served steak for those that didn't want anything too fancy.
Café Rouge serves a breakfast menu, Enfants' menu, Prix Fixe (12-5pm), main menu and the wine/drinks/desserts menu. It's a good idea to plan in advance before going as there are often printable vouchers available (online), and you also have the option of using Tesco vouchers. I would definitely have chosen the Tesco vouchers (as I think they're worth 4x the price) because I was a little surprised at the cost of food on the menu.
The menus are relatively varied, though they obviously focus on French dishes. As a fairly picky eater, and not knowing much about French food, I found the choice quite limited. We sat down at 4.30pm, so had the option of the lunch menu too, but that didn't really help the fussier eaters, which were 3 out of 4 of us. The 3 of us were glad to see the steak, so we opted for that and asked for it medium.
The atmosphere on the whole was quite pleasant whilst we waited for the food, which took about 15-20 minutes. It wasn't too busy so we had a good table and were able to talk without too much distraction from a busy room or loud music.
I thought the drinks took a bit longer than I had expected to arrive considering the bar area (where you can order drinks separately) was quite empty. But the service was friendly enough. My main niggle was with the help in understanding the food. Underneath each food name is a brief description - quite fancy. It's also quite difficult to ask for things plain, or without a certain ingredient. Some sauces can be put on the side, but the menu doesn't seem as adaptable as in, say, Beefeater.
I did ask about one dish, but the waitress didn't really answer my question. To save myself from sounded stupid, I didn't try a new dish and went for the steak instead. I regretted doing that because when the steak arrived I was really annoyed with myself.
At £16 for a steak, this was really over-priced in my opinion, especially as no sides were included. I had a chunk of steak, most of which seemed to stringy to eat, and it was much rarer than I had anticipated after having asked for it medium. The blood and pool of juice/blood alone put me off eating it. Then there was the basket of fries; a reasonable portion I suppose, but they weren't too appealing being skinny and quite bland.
I felt really disappointed having paid £16 for something that wasn't cooked how I expected it to be, had no salad, and didn't taste particularly nice. However, the most annoying thing was probably when I tried my someone else's Boeuf Bourguignon (the one person who wasn't too fussy & had eaten here several times before) and it was delicious! I ended up leaving half of my steak & chips, and being really annoyed at having wasted the money.
Overall, I thought that this was one of those places with a certain reputation of being 'different' and 'classy', and of having a posher menu. I personally would opt for Beefeater any day - you don't pay the earth, get more for your money & more helpful staff with quicker service (& great-tasting chips)... I wont go on.
I guess this is a good place for those wanting something a little different, with a French flavour and ambiance. I felt I had wasted my money, but at least I could say I had eaten at 'Café Rouge'. Next time I'll go for the Boeuf Bourguignon, but I can't say I'm in a rush to go back again anytime soon.
Summary: Not quite all it's cracked up to be in my opinion